Brazilian Embroidery: Vibrant Blossoms in Rayon

Posted by Art of Silk Staff on August 20, 2016

Brazilian embroidery is a type of dimensional surface embroidery. Brazilian embroidery does not necessarily come from Brazil, but is named such because the threads used are widely manufactured in Brazil. Instead of cotton or wool, the threads in Brazilian embroidery are 100% rayon, which are extracted from plants by hand and have a smooth and silky texture, much like velvet, making it appropriate for the dimensional stitches. It is this main characteristic that makes Brazilian embroidery famous and appreciated by many.

A Brief History

Rayon is made primarily from wood pulp chemically converted into a soluble compound. It is then dissolved and pressed through a spinneret, becoming solid filaments. Common threads use an S twist, turning fibers clockwise into a strand, but rayon uses a Z twist, turning the fiber counterclockwise, which can withstand even boiling water, so users do not have to worry about frequent washing.

In the 1960s, a woman named Elisa Hirsch Maia in Brazil began experimenting with thread dying after becoming dissatisfied with the threads available to embroider her family’s clothing. Unexpectedly, her threads sold like hot cakes and she was soon in business.

After that, it became popular in Brazil to produce rayon threads in different colors. Because the threads were colorful, the embroidery was known as Vari-Cor embroidery, and then simply as "Brazilian Embroidery".

Basic Stitches

Like other embroidery types, to know the basic stitches helps to understand the craft and effect of Brazilian embroidery.  

There is no special basic tool used in Brazilian embroidery. Milliners needles, darners needles and tapestry needles are the ones mostly used, with different kinds of needles used for different stitches.

The following are common stitches you can frequently find in Brazilian embroidery:

Bullion: it may be tricky, but this stitch is usually used to make a dimensional effect.

Buttonhole: this stitch catches a loop of the thread, then the needle is returned to the back of the fabric at a right angle to the original start of the thread. Variations for this stitch include cast-on buttonhole and detached buttonhole, among others.

Leaf: a variation of the satin stitch, mostly used in leaf design.

Drizzle: worked like a cast-on buttonhole, but attached at one point.

Couching: when the thread is caught down at intervals by another thread going through the material from beneath.

Long-Tailed French Knot: a straight stitch with a French knot at the end, also called a pistil stitch.

Stem: looks like a twisted rope, usually seen in stem designs.

Although many of these stitches are also used in other types of embroidery, there is a different technique in making these stitches in Brazilian embroidery.

Brazilian embroidery is a peculiar style where the embroiderer has to make knots at the beginnings and ends of every stitch, then leave tails beyond the knots (at least 1/4 inch) and fray them out. These tails will be hidden later. While forming the knots, the embroiderer wraps the thread onto the needle in the opposite direction from that usually used, to avoid the fibers unraveling.

Here are some tips for Brazilian embroidery:

1. Sort the thread colors. You will need many colorful threads to complete the embroidery.

2. Straighten curvy threads with an iron or distilled water. When using a steam iron, be careful not to let the iron touch the threads.

3.Rayon thread is very slippery, so make sure that the beginnings and ends of the threads have been knotted.

Brazilian embroidery doesn’t have practical rules like other embroidery styles. Its patterns usually outline a major design and then it is up to the embroiderer to fill in blanks or make adjustments. The freestyle process of creating without limitations makes Brazilian embroidery very appealing to individuals all over the world.


Three dimensional: Brazilian embroidery is a type of 3D embroidery that spruces up traditional styles, where almost all stitches are piled, intertwined, padded or knotted.

Brilliant color, silky look: Because of the use of artificial fiber, Brazilian embroidery achieves a special smooth, lustrous or crinkled boucle effect.

Rich and fine background: The background of Brazilian embroidery is usually filled with branches and field flowers, using knotted and cast-on stitches.

Just like the lifestyle of Brazilians, the art that originates from Brazil usually denotes something that is bold, unchained, and quickly captures people's attention and interest.

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